After five seasons donning the blue and white, former Penn State defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields is now drawing buzz as a potential mid-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Castro-Fields appeared in 12 games at cornerback and recorded eight tackles over his final three games as a true freshman. He would start three games the following season in 2018 before becoming a full-time starter for his last three seasons.
He posted 139 tackles, 25 passes defended, and three interceptions during his five-year career in Happy Valley. Castro-Fields earned third-team All-Big Ten honors during his junior season and an honorable mention in both of his subsequent seasons. His 2020 honorable mention came despite a season-ending injury, which occurred three games into Penn State’s campaign.
In addition to Castro-Fields’ staunch Big Ten experience, the Nittany Lion defender delivered impressive physical test numbers at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and Penn State’s Pro Day.
At the NFL Combine, Castro-Fields did not compete in most workouts, although he did participate in the 40-yard dash. His time, an official 4.38 seconds, ranked sixth-best among cornerback prospects. His time topped the times of expected first-round cornerbacks Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Trent McDuffie.
At Penn State’s Pro Day, Castro-Fields forewent the 40-yard dash, but he showed out in other drills. Castro-Fields was among the day’s top performers with a 37-inch vertical jump and 131-inch broad jump.
Overall, Castro-Fields earned himself the second-highest athleticism score among cornerbacks since 2013, according to AWS’s Next Gen Stats.
Complimenting a 6’1 ″, 197-pound frame, his athleticism is what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein highlights as a major selling point for Castro-Fields. However, scouts also find noticeable weaknesses. At 23 years old, those weaknesses, which include a lack of instincts, may have a heightened negative impact on Castro-Fields’ traits-heavy outlook when you consider the position’s younger prospects with similar ceilings.
“Castro-Fields’ length, strength, and athleticism are likely to be viewed as moldable features by defensive back coaches,” Zierlein wrote. “However, he lacks the desired stickiness to the route and lacks spatial awareness and ball-hawking instincts.”
These flaws were echoed in an analysis from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network. The Nittany Lion’s high effort and willingness to gamble has not been translated to the stat sheet.
“Castro-Fields hasn’t been able to generate a lot of impact plays throughout the course of five years of game action,” Crabbs wrote. “[He] has not logged an interception since 2019. ”
Despite lacking overwhelmingly impressive college tape, Castro-Fields ‘willingness to take chances and work hard to offer him a ceiling that will confidently place him on teams’ draft boards. In 2021, Penn State defensive back Lamont Wade displayed similar strengths and hoped to offset a weaker on-field resume, but he ultimately didn’t land on a roster until after the draft.
Given that recent history at similar positions, it’s unsurprising that some have questions about Castro-Fields’ viability. The comparison between the two is not all-encompassing, though. Castro-Fields possesses size that Wade doesn’t, as well as more starting experience.
In recent days, mock drafts from The Athletic and CBS Sports place Castro-Fields as a mid-fourth-round selection, while ESPN projects him as a fifth-round pick.
Not every Penn State prospect is going to make a Micah Parsons-esque splash when they reach the league. Though he has the physical attributes and the work ethic to shine, the general consensus among NFL scouts is that Castro-Fields will peak at a respectable backup role.
The NFL Draft will begin with its first round on Thursday, April 28, with the later rounds continuing through April 30. It’ll be televised on ESPN and the NFL Network.